Science takes center stagePublished 11:01pm Thursday, February 28, 2013
Mack Benn Jr. Elementary fifth-graders unleashed the power of science Tuesday when chemists from chemical company BASF presented a Kid’s Lab at the school.
Each student was provided with a backpack containing an apron, safety goggles, notebook and pencil, all put to good use during experiments and to document what happened.
Visiting the school from BASF, which has a site in Suffolk on Wilroy Road, were Alena Arkhipov, a chemist, and Nathaniel Grigg, a senior quality control chemist.
“It’s to expose kids to science,” Arkhipov said.
In one of four experiments the group conducted, each student combined vinegar, water and baking soda in a plastic bottle before stretching a balloon over the mouth of the bottle.
The reaction of the ingredients together causes the balloon to inflate, and children were delighted as that occurred before their very eyes.
“As opposed to reading in a book, they get to do it hands-on and go through the scientific process, which is one of our major Standards of Learning,” said Elizabeth Petry, a gifted resource teacher at the school.
“You can see the excitement that we have; it makes science fun and come alive for them.”
This marks the third year the school has worked with BASF, which also presented Kid’s Labs on Wednesday, with more planned for March 27 and April 23-24.
While about 25 to 30 students participated during the first year, last year Kid’s Lab was expanded to involve the entire fifth grade, Petry said. “So about 100 students each year get to participate,” she added.
Presenting to the students in the school cafeteria, the BASF chemists, looking the part in white lab coats, explained the scientific processes involved while demonstrating how experiments are performed.
Petry said that by working with real-life scientists on real experiments, students’ eyes are opened to how one can earn a living in the science field.
“The scientists get right in there and work with the kids,” she said.
On March 5, science will again take center-stage at Mack Benn — alongside math — for Math and Science Night during a Parent-Teacher Association meeting.
Invited guest presenters are from the Virginia Air and Space Center, the Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center, Surry’s nuclear power plant and BASF.